What to Pack for a Family Road Trip


With just eight weeks to go until the end of the school year, we’re officially on countdown to our annual summer road trip.

This year should be exciting. We’re flying to Los Angeles and driving down the coast to San Diego. Then we’ll turn inland to see Palm Springs and the Grand Canyon. After three weeks on the road, we’ll fly out to Hawaii for a week of sunshine and surf.

Can. Hardly. Wait.

This will be our fourth summer road trip. Over the years we’ve learned a few things about packing for a successful extended trip.

jungle formula for kids

Jungle Formula have asked me to share a post with my top summer packing essentials.

My packing list has changed as Flea has got older, but it always includes gallons of sunscreen and bug spray.

I have the world’s whitest skin and have to wear at least SPF 70 in the summer. Meanwhile, Flea and I are both riddled with allergies and react badly to insect bites, so repellant is a must. I know some people swear by B vitamins and Marmite, but me? I swear by Jungle Formula, in all forms.

Jungle Formula has released a new range of kids’ products, including a lotion designed just for little ones, that’s suitable from 12 months. There’s also a fun Slap-it band that can be worn on the wrist, offering 8 hours protection a day for 2 weeks.

Apparently, 38% of parents have forgotten to take repellant on holiday. That’s nothing. I once forgot an entire suitcase. I had to buy my entire wardrobe at beach shops, and looked like Magnum PI crossed with Hyacinth Bucket for the whole week.

Today I’m sharing some of the things we ALWAYS take on our summer road trips, that you might not think about.


Bluetooth Speaker

Not all rental cars have a USB port or Bluetooth so you can play music through your phone. We take along our own Bluetooth speaker, so we always have tunes.

At the risk of sounding middle aged, it’s too easy for kids like Flea to pop in ear buds when they get in the car, and ignore everything until we get to the destination. Having music that we both listen to means that Flea’s a lot more likely to appreciate the sights out of the window.

It also means a fighting chance of having some conversation in the car. When it’s just the two of us, I prefer not to just feel like Flea’s taxi driver!


Dry Bag

You know how it is when you’re on the beach. Should I go and splash in the surf with my child, or stay here with my wallet and phone?

A couple of years ago, we invested in a couple of Skorch dry bags and they’re life savers. Put your stuff into them, sling them over your back, and everything stays dry while you’re in the water.

We use ours when we’re sailing or paddle boarding, but they’re also a fab beach accessory. Because dry bags don’t just keep water out. They also keep sand out of my camera and lenses.

Having lost more than one camera to sand in my life (sob), these days I don’t visit the beach without a dry bag. I do also put my camera and lens into ZipLoc bags, for double protection.

iPad (plus chargers/power packs)

We’ve booked all sorts of accommodation over the years. We’ve stayed in tiny one room huts in the middle of forests, yurts, converted garages – you name it, we’ve probably stayed there. This year we’re booked into a camper van for part of our trip, which should be … interesting.

cabin in big sur redwoods

Some of the places have TVs and DVD libraries, but often not. We use our iPad as a mobile entertainment station. We download box sets, movies and TV shows from Sky TV, Amazon Prime and Netflix, to watch on the road.

Travelling for weeks at a time can be tiring for kids. I think sometimes it’s 100% allowed to veg out with pizza in front of a familiar TV show. Just don’t forget adapters, charging cables and power packs so that the iPad can be used when you’re stuck in a 2-hour traffic jam on the highway.

Oh and a side tip – rather than worrying about adapters for your iPhones and iPads, just buy a US USB plug, and use that. Far less likely to overheat/topple out of the wall, and it’s a lot less likely to be forgotten!

Audio Books

When we have a really long day’s driving, I love listening to audio books. Now Flea’s a little older, there’s a whole world of stuff that can be downloaded from Amazon onto our iPhones.

Last summer we drove through Canada listening to the entire series of Vampire Diaries on audio book. The summer before we managed to get through the Fallen trilogy, and several Meg Cabot books. I love audio books because they keep me alert on a long drive, and help the time go so much faster!

Just remember to download them before you leave home. We had to pull off the road in the middle of Canada last summer into a Tim Hortons because we’d finished a book and didn’t have the sequel loaded, so we needed their free WiFi!


If you don’t pack a blanket in your summer suitcase, I’m about to change your world.

We have a fab blanket made of sweatshirt type material that we picked up in Santa Cruz a few years ago and it squishes up pretty small in a bag.

While we’re on our trip, the blanket is perfect if Flea wants to take a nap in the back of the car. When we’re staying in a property that’s cold, it works as extra bedding. It’s perfect for picnics, and wrapping up when we go to an open-air movie on the beach. I can bundle Flea up in it if she’s cold after surfing.; Rolled up, it even makes a great pillow on the plane. In short, it’s a travel essential. I highly recommend you pack one this summer. If you’re super short on space, take a fitted sheet instead. They’re perfect for beach picnics, and with a shoe in each corner, you’re protected from rogue sand in the sandwiches!


So there you have it – my lesser-known essentials for a family road trip. What would you add to the list? 



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *